Unique Things to do in Sarasota, FL

Sarasota definitely qualifies as a unique city.   Of course, it is tropical and sunny with gorgeous beaches, but outside of that Sarasota is defined by its roots in the circus and deep commitment to the arts.  Trips to Siesta Key, St. Armand’s Circle, Marie Selby Gardens, Sarasota Opera and numerous theaters are a must.  Once you’ve checked out all those, here are some unique things to do in Sarasota.

Unique Things to do in Sarasota

unique things to do in sarasota - sarasota architectural salvage
Sarasota Architectural Salvage

Where do you find the best shopping in Sarasota?

Sarasota Architectural Salvage is a veritable wonderland of repurposed EVERYTHING!  They take valuable & historical materials from the trash and turn them into useful architectural antiques and furniture, décor, garden art and building materials.   There is everything from doorknobs and teak boat letters all the way to full bars, windows, doors and everything else imaginable under the sun.  There is truly something for everyone here.  There is an entire array of items outside for the garden and yard. 

When making a purchase, not only are you recycling, but you are also helping the local community.  Sarasota Architectural Salvage donates to non-profit organizations and accepts consignments from local non-profits as well as providing in-kind donations.  The wide range of ever-changing inventory is worth a look for locals and visitors alike.   They just opened a second location in University Park.

  • Open from Monday-Saturday 9 AM – 5 PM
  • Two locations: 1093 Central Ave, Sarasota, FL 34236 & 5265 University Parkway, University Park, FL 34202
  • sarasotasalvage.com
unique things to do in sarasota - bazaar on apricot & lime
Bazaar on Apricot & Lime

Where is the best vintage shopping in Sarasota?

The Bazaar on Apricot & Lime has quickly become one of our favorite Saturday stops.  It is a mix of shopping, arts, food and neighborhood hang out.  Every day the amazing owner, Judy greets you at the door and makes you feel right at home.  Once inside you have a wide variety of local artisans, resale shops and new product sales to chose from.  These stalls are intermixed with art classes, book signings, pet adoptions and different surprises every time we go.  If you find yourself hungry, there is a café in the back for snacks and coffee.  The Bazaar has live music every day from a local musician. 

Recently, the Bazaar has added a beautiful courtyard for live performances and often times we arrive to several food trucks and outside vendors as well.   This beautiful new outdoor space host special events and fundraisers for the community.   The Bazaar is the best place to experience the unique local flavor of Sarasota.

unique things to do in sarasota - bob's train
Bob’s Train

Where is the most interesting and unique dining venue?

I have to admit that I have heard of Bob’s Train but have never gone their myself until now.  I was missing out!  This is the true definition of Sarasota circus charm.  It is like stepping back in time with the Ringling Bros.  The diner consists of four vintage dining cars on train tracks.  The train cars contain over 900 photographs that paint a historic picture of Sarasota, from famous visitors and mostly of the rich circus history.  The fourth car, the Jomar, is currently under restoration.  This was John and Mable Ringling’s private dining car which is being restored with the assistance of local volunteers.   

The owner, Bob Horne serves as host, short order cook and historian.  His passion for trains, the circus and Sarasota is impressive.  The entire experience has small town charm that feels like a step back in time.   The menu is typical diner fare.  It is reasonably priced.  There is not a whole lot for the healthy eater however, they do offer a veggie sandwich.  I had them take a salad and remove all the meat, dairy, etc. and just use balsamic for dressing, so I was happy.  Bob’s is located downtown, but off the beaten path.  The address does not always pick up on GPS.

  • Open from Tuesday–Friday  11:00am-2:00pm; Wednesday–Saturday 5:00pm-8:00pm and Sunday 10:30am-2:00pm
  • 2211 Fruitville Rd, Sarasota, FL 34237
  • bobstrain.com
unique things to do in sarasota - marietta's museum of whimsy

Where is the most unique art experience in Sarasota?

Marietta’s Museum of Whimsy is the perfect name for the lovely Marietta Lee’s creation.  From the entrance through the curio encrusted Lee Family Arch that are actual family mementos that honor Marietta’s family to the fabulous artwork throughout nothing is predictable.  The entrance fee is a suggested donation of $5.00 (cash only) and was started as a respite for caregivers like herself to spend a carefree hour or two away from aging parents and responsibilities.  It quickly turned into an eclectic collection of paintings, sculpture, and mixed media that people of all ages enjoy.  

Marietta calls this a “Smiley Place” and this is evident even when driving by on Tamiami Trail.  You can’t help but smile when driving by and seeing the colorful buildings and sculptures. My smiles came mostly from the colorful sculptures of the flying pigs and seahorses.   This is a wonderful place for everyone in the family to visit.

  • Open seasonally beginning November 29, 2019
  • 2211 Fruitville Rd, Sarasota, FL 34237
  • whimsymuseum.org

unique things to do in sarasota - ringling miniature museum

Where can you visit the World’s Largest Miniature Circus?

The centerpiece of the Circus Museum Tibbals Learning Center at the Ringling Museum is the 3,800 square foot Howard Bros. World’s Largest Miniature Circus, a 44,000-piece re-creation of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey® Circus combined shows from 1919-1938.   Since its opening on January 14, 2006, over 3 million visitors have been captivated by marvel of a miniature circus.  Howard Tibbals spent over 18 years working on the models.  The model is built to 1/16th of life size and was painstakingly checked for accuracy against his hundreds of thousands of vintage photographs, historic posters and stories.   Represented are the show’s arrival on 55 train cars, the parade of 154 wagons, the side shows, life on the back lot, and the main event under the big top.   

In addition to the big top, from the canvas top with its three rings and four performance stages to the wagons that carried all the equipment related to the tent, are 925 animals, including horses, parrots, armadillos and bison. There are also over 900 sets of miniature silverware and dishes, with tiny monitors installed showing actual footage of meals being prepared in the dining tent.   An interesting part of the model to me is how detailed it captures the slice of small town Americana and the feel of excitement of the circus rolling into a small town and how that must have been the most anticipated event of the year.  Amazingly all of the circus equipment is designed to be packed up into wagons, just like the real tented circus, moving on to the next town after just one day.  That may have been the most amazing feat of them all!

unique things to do in Sarasota - amish village
Yoder’s Amish Village

Where can you go back in time in Sarasota?

Pinecraft, the Amish community of Sarasota is quite possibly the most unique thing I have seen in Sarasota.  When I first moved here, I kept noticing Amish people around town and was stunned to take a turn down Bee Ridge Road and discover they have an entire community so close to downtown.  Pinecraft is just a stone’s throw away from all the action in Sarasota and is home to several hundred Amish year round. It is like taking a step back in time. 

During the winter months, Pinecraft comes alive with thousands of Amish snowbirds who are seeking a break from farming or building furniture in their northern communities.  Since the Amish prefer to walk or ride three wheeled bikes, their community is pretty self contained.  They have stores, restaurants, markets that are all open to the general public.  They even recently opened a hotel.  In fact, many of them are quite popular with neighboring non-Amish people who enjoy the “home cooked” food and craftmanship of the items they sell at stores. 

It is easy to distinguish between the Amish and the general public by the dress.  The Amish stick to their traditional dress and generally stick together.   This is definitely an area worth driving through and grabbing a bite to eat at Yoder’s!

These are just some of the more unique things to do in Sarasota. Have you checked out any of these places? What are your recommendations?

The Traveling Gals

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